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Japanese Baseball Teams to Merge for Financial Reasons - 2004-06-18


Two of Japan's baseball teams plan to merge to cut financial losses, and a Japanese automaker admits new troubles with its trucks. Those are among the stories in this week's look at Japanese business news.

While fans may be angry, some financial analysts are celebrating the proposed merger between the Kintetsu Buffaloes and the Orix Blue Wave teams. They say it signals a new era in which Japanese corporations will no longer ignore the massive losses of their professional sports clubs.

Japan's transportation minister, Nobuteru Ishihara, says the merger is needed.

Mr. Ishihara says the losses of some $40 million a year for the Kintetsu club, owned by a railway company, is unacceptable for good management.

Baseball teams here in Japan have seen an erosion of fan support, because of the exodus of a number of star players to the U.S. major leagues.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Fuso has admitted it covered up more than 60 additional defects in its large vehicles.

Company President Wilfried Porth says the truck maker is informing the Transportation Ministry it will issue recalls for 39 of the most serious defects, once replacement parts are available.

"I would like first to apologize to our customers and the general public for the serious wrongdoing of our company in the past," Mr. Porth said.

Mr. Porth says about 450,000 large vehicles will be recalled.

The truck and bus maker was spun off from Mitsubishi Motors early last year. Revelations of a series of cover-ups of truck defects has led to the arrest of a former president of Mitsubishi Motors and five other executives.

A major Japanese trading company, Mitsui says it has acquired the Asian sales rights for streetcars from France's Lohr Industrie.

The next generation streetcars are quieter, because they use rubber tires. And the company says, not only do streetcars lessen traffic congestion, but also, at less than $30 million per kilometer, they are about one tenth the cost of subway systems.

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